Patriarch of Antioch is a traditional title held by the Bishop of Antioch. As the traditional "overseer" (ἐπίσκοπος, episkopos, from which the word 'bishop' is derived) of the first gentile Christian community, the position has been of prime importance in the church from its earliest period. This diocese is one of the few for which the names of its bishops from the apostolic beginnings have been preserved. Today five churches use the title of Patriarch of Antioch: the Syriac Orthodox Church and Syriac Catholic Church, the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch, Melkite Greek Catholic Church, and Maronite Church; and, historically, there has also been a Latin Patriarch of Antioch.
According to church tradition, this ancient Patriarchate was founded by the Apostle Saint Peter. The patriarchal succession was disputed at the time of the Meletian schism in 362 and again after the Council of Chalcedon in 451, when there were rival Melkite and non-Chalcedonian claimants to the see. After a 7th-century succession dispute in the Melkite church, the Maronites began appointing a Maronite Patriarch as well. After the First Crusade, the Catholic Church began appointing a Latin Rite Patriarch of Antioch, though this became strictly titular after the Fall of Antioch in 1268, and was abolished completely in 1964. In the 18th century, succession disputes in the Greek Orthodox and Syriac Orthodox Churches of Antioch led to factions of those churches entering into communion with Rome under claimants to the patriarchate: the Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch of Antioch and the Syriac Catholic Patriarch of Antioch, respectively. Their Orthodox counterparts are the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, respectively.
It was in the city of Antioch (modern day Antakya in southeast Turkey) that Christians were first so called (Acts 11:26). According to church tradition, Saint Peter established the church in Antioch, and was the city's first bishop, :92 before going to Rome to found the Church there.:95 Ignatius of Antioch (martyred c. 107), counted as the third bishop of the city, was a prominent apostolic father. By the 4th century, the bishop of Antioch had become the most senior bishop in a region covering modern-day eastern Turkey, Lebanon, Israel and Palestine, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, and Iran. His hierarchy served the largest number of Christians in the known world at that time.
Despite being overshadowed in ecclesiastical authority by the Patriarch of Constantinople in the later years of the Eastern Roman Empire, the Antiochene Patriarch remained the most independent, powerful, and trusted of the Eastern Patriarchs. The Antiochene church was a centre of Christian learning, second only to Alexandria. In contrast to the Hellenistic-influenced Christology of Alexandria, Rome, and Constantinople, Antiochene theology was greatly influenced by Rabbinic Judaism and other modes of Semitic thought — emphasizing the single, transcendent divine substance (οὐσία), which in turn led to adoptionism in certain extremes, and to the clear distinction of two natures of Christ (δύο φύσεις: dyophysitism): one participating in humanity, the other in divinity. Lastly, compared to the Patriarchates in Constantinople, Rome, and Alexandria which for various reasons became mired in the theology of imperial state religion, many of its Patriarchs managed to straddle the divide between the controversies of Christology and imperial unity through its piety and straightforward grasp of early Christian thought which was rooted in its primitive Church beginnings.
The Christological controversies that followed the Council of Chalcedon in 451 resulted in a long struggle for the Patriarchate between those who accepted and those who rejected the Council. The issue came to a head in 512, when a synod was convened in Sidon by the non-Chalcedonians, which resulted in Flavian II (a Chalcedonian) being replaced as Patriarch by Severus (a non-Chalcedonian). The Chalcedonians refused to recognise the dismissal and continued to recognise Flavian as Patriarch. The non-Chalcedonians under Severus ultimately established a rival church, which eventually came to be called the Syriac Orthodox Church (which is a part of the Oriental Orthodox Church), which has continued to appoint its own Syriac Patriarchs of Antioch. From 518, on the death of Flavian and the appointment of his successor, the Chalcedonian church became known as the Greek Church of Antioch. In the Middle Ages, as the Greek Church of Antioch became more and more dependent on Constantinople, it began to use the Byzantine rite.
The internal schisms such as that over Monophysitism was followed by the Islamic conquests which began in the late 7th century, resulting in the Patriarch's ecclesiastical authority becoming entangled in the politics of imperial authority and later Islamic hegemony. Being considered independent of both Byzantine Imperial and Arab Moslem power but in essence occupied by both, the de facto power of the Antiochene patriarchs faded. Additionally, the city suffered several natural disasters including major earthquakes throughout the 4th and 6th centuries and anti-Christian conquests beginning with the Zoroastrian Persians in the 6th century, then the Muslim Arabs in the 7th century, then the Muslim Seljuks in the 11th century.
The Great Schism took place in 1054. Two factions stopped ecclesiastical relations with one another. One faction was in the West under the leadership of the Pope of Rome, the Catholic Church; the other faction was in the East under the leadership of the four Eastern Patriarchs of Antioch, Jerusalem, Constantinople and Alexandria leaders of the Eastern Orthodox Church.
The ecclesiastical schisms between Rome and Constantinople and between Constantinople and Alexandria and Antioch left the Patriarch's authority isolated, fractured and debased, a situation which further increased when the Franks took the city in 1099 and installed a Latin Patriarch of Antioch. The Western influence in the area was finally obliterated by the victories of the Muslim Mamluks over the Crusader States in the 13th century. The Latin Patriarch went into exile in 1268, and the office became titular only. The office fell vacant in 1953 and was finally abolished in 1964.
Melkite split of 1724
In 1724, Cyril VI was elected Greek Patriarch of Antioch. He was considered to be pro-Rome by the Patriarch of Constantinople, who refused to recognize the election, and appointed another Patriarch in his stead. Many Melkites continued to acknowledge Cyril's claim to the patriarchate. Thus from 1724 the Greek Church of Antioch split up in the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch and in the Melkite Greek Catholic Church. In 1729, Pope Benedict XIII recognized Cyril as the Eastern Catholic Patriarch of Antioch and welcomed him and his followers into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church.
Today, five churches claim the title of Patriarch of Antioch; three of these are autonomous Eastern Catholic particular churches in full communion with the Pope of Rome. All five see themselves as part of the Antiochene heritage and claim a right to the Antiochene See through apostolic succession, although none are actually based in the city of Antakya. This multiplicity of Patriarchs of Antioch as well as their lack of location in Antioch, reflects the troubled history of Christianity in the region, which has been marked by internecine struggles and persecution, particularly since the Islamic conquest. Indeed, the Christian population in the original territories of the Antiochene patriarchs has been all but eliminated by assimilation and expulsion, with the region's current Christians forming a small minority.
The current Patriarchs of Antioch are listed below in order of their accession to the post, from earliest to most recent.
- Gregory III Laham, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, Alexandria, and Jerusalem of the Greek Melkites. Gregory III is the leader of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, an Eastern Catholic Church that is in full communion with the Catholic Church and uses the Byzantine liturgy. His see is based in Damascus.
- Ignatius Joseph III Yonan, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East of the Syrians. Ignace Joseph III is the leader of the Syrian Catholic Church, an Eastern Catholic Church that is in full communion with Catholic Church's Holy See at the Vatican and uses the Antiochene liturgy. The see is based in Beirut.
- Bechara Boutros Rahi, Maronite Patriarch of Antioch and the Whole Levant. The Maronite Church is an Eastern Catholic Church that is in full communion with the Catholic Church and uses the Maronite liturgy. His see is based in Bkerké, Lebanon.
- John X of Antioch was elected Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and All the East on December 17, 2012. John X is the leader of the Antiochian Orthodox Church, and thus is one of the major hierarchs in the Eastern Orthodox Church. His see is based in Damascus and uses the Byzantine liturgy.
- Ignatius Aphrem II Karim, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East. Ignatius Aphrem II Karim is the Supreme Head of the Syriac Orthodox Church, which is part of the Oriental Orthodox communion and uses the Antiochene liturgy. His see is based in Damascus.
At one point, there was at least nominally a sixth claimant to the Patriarchate. When the Western European Crusaders established the Principality of Antioch, they established a Latin Rite church in the city, whose head took the title of Patriarch. After the Crusaders were expelled by the Mamelukes in 1268, the Pope continued to appoint a titular Latin Patriarch of Antioch, whose actual seat was the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome. The last holder of this office was Roberto Vicentini, who died without a successor in 1953. The post itself was abolished in 1964.
Claims to legitimacy
The claim of each Patriarch to be the legitimate successor to original See of Antioch is based on differing interpretations of history and church canons, as follows:
- If Flavian II was legally deposed in 512, then:
- If Flavian II was not legally deposed, then he would have been Patriarch until his death in 518, and -
- Severus (who died before Flavian) was not Patriarch at any time and thus the Syriac Catholic and Syriac Orthodox Patriarchs are not the successors of the See, and
- the true successor to the See is to be found among the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch, the Melkite Church, and the Maronite Church, and -
- Further, if John Maron was legally elected Greek Orthodox Patriarch in 685 and the actions of the Byzantine Emperor to depose him were illegal, then -
- John Maron was the legal successor of the Patriarchate, and through him the Maronite Patriarchs;
- otherwise, the Greek Orthodox Church or the Melkite Church would have the claim to continued succession.
- The Melkite versus the Greek Orthodox Patriarchs - The Melkite recognizes that Cyril VI was legally elected Patriarch in 1724 and that the current Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch was a later creation to serve the faithful that did not choose to enter full communion with Rome. As such, the Melkite Patriarch has the legal claim to the Patriarchate.
- The Syriac Orthodox and the Syriac Catholic both recognize that Andrew Akijan was legally elected Patriarch in 1662 who re-entered communion with Rome but later Patriarchs severed that Communion. Later Michael Jarweh was elected Patriarch in 1782 and he again re-entered communion with Rome which caused those that opposed union to separate and form a new ecclesiastical body that today is called the Syriac Orthodox Church. As such, the Syriac Catholic Patriarch has the legal status as the continuation of the original See of Antioch over the Syriac Orthodox Church provided of course that Severus was indeed legally elected Patriarch which the Catholic Church does not accept.
- Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch
- Syriac Orthodox Church
- List of Latin Patriarchs of Antioch 1098–1964
- List of Patriarchs of Antioch 37–546
- List of Greek Orthodox Patriarchs of Antioch 518–present
- List of Maronite Patriarchs 686–present
- List of Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarchs of Antioch 1724–present
- List of Syriac Orthodox Patriarchs of Antioch 512–present
- List of Syrian Catholic Patriarchs of Antioch 1662–present
- Jones, David (2010). The Apostles of Jesus Christ: Thirteen Men Who Turned the World Upside-Down. Xlibris Corporation, 2010. ISBN 9781450070867.
- Peter, in the Catholic Encyclopedia 1913
- Fortescue, Adrian (1969). The Orthodox Eastern Church. p. 116. ISBN 978-0-8337-1217-2. Retrieved 2009-05-17.
- "Melchites". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913.
- stsharbelpeoria.org | The Evolution of the Patriarchate of Antioch